Process automation and integration are welcomed when you have a ton of processes to perform to keep your business going. In this article, I will focus on the nitty-gritty of process automation that is helpful for copywriters and digital marketers.
Website Front-End Integrations
The content fed by social media that you can see at the bottom of this page are examples of front-end integration.
Another example, a very crude one, of a front-end integration would be to use RSS feeds in a discreet, streamlined way to serve a web page featuring content that wasn’t manufactured in-house at all, but that is pulled from somewhere else by the RSS technology.
Website Back-End IntegrationsThere are a lot of integrations to customize your CMS back-end experience. For instance, you can connect your CMS with cloud storage and not only schedule your backup jobs and forget about creating security copies, but also for each of those copies to be uploaded to a cloud storage service automatically.
Web Browser Integrations for Process Automation
Many no-nonsense browser plugins are useful to perform tasks that otherwise you must either pay for or invest an obscene amount of time or effort in exchange for below-average results.
The browser in which I found the best extensions for business was Chrome. Only in Chrome and its clones, and I haven’t searched for anything else in any of the other browsers.
I’m not saying Firefox doesn’t have, I simply don’t use Firefox for work.
It’s more of a leisure browser for me, and it excels with the few add-ons for leisure I needed and found, like for instance, a sound equalizer for YouTube, something that the half or so a dozen of equalizers for Chrome I tried don’t get right.
To give several examples of Chrome extensions that are highly valuable for digital marketers
Mass mailings with Gmass and GBlast that interface with Gmail to send mass mailings to your lists
Web page content highlights with Hypothesis, that can create highlights on HTML and PDF content
A single grammar checking tool everywhere on the web, like having the lighting-fast grammar and syntax checker Grammarly correct all the text you write through your web browser, in any input field like contact forms, and social media website update editors.
Process Automation and Integrations Sequences
The kinds of process automation scheme sequences I created had several shapes. There are pyramidal and branching schemes. This one is an example of a branching process automation scheme.
Process Automation Scheme | Source: Martin Wensley
How Does this Process Automation Work?
First, two entry points are the moments in which I find awesome content. All the outstanding content I found, I save on my Raindrop.io account. I read the contents, and when I finish reading the piece, I star it. I have an automation trigger in place that whenever I star a piece of content on raindrop.io, the article copies itself to my Evernote account.
This mechanism of liking an article on my Raindrop is for the automation to trigger. What I get in Evernote are all articles I already read, and that I think are fit to share with others. From there, what I curated to re-share goes to the content calendar.
The other two channels that feed my content calendar are this website you are reading right now and owned content (that I wrote) that I published on 3rd party channels, like guest posts and revenue-sharing websites. It took a relative amount of effort to integrate these channels in my process automation scheme, but not in the technical sense. The effort was to figure out how to make them fit in the content sharing and further spreading schemes.
The content calendar can be a dedicated, offline document, or, if you trust your content update delivery service (in my case Social Pilot), you can draft it directly on the live schedule chronogram of the site.
The social updates are added to the schedule once per update, or you can also share them instantly. Social Pilot does its magic and the updates replicate to my Facebook page, my LinkedIn profile, and to my Twitter feed. If, when I created the original update, I added either the #copywriter-martin.win or the #infographic hashtags to the update’s copy, then a recipe triggers that replicates the Twitter’s post image to a board on Pinterest.
Imagine if one of the early/top-tier channels croaks, the process automation fails for everything in lower tiers of the scheme that came after it. That’s why you must have a few points of failure as possible in the sequence.
How does Process Automation Work?
Each day more and more portals and sites release their APIs for other websites to interface with it that can be exploited for process automation tasks. The most popular example of a connection between apps and synchronization features are all tools and apps that interface with cloud storage. Another main example of the kind of web apps that take advantage of this is the automation recipe creation sites.
The concept of automation recipes is this, there’s a task you need to perform and you will benefit greatly if you could automate it.
Enter recipe sites, on these sites you can create recipes that are composed of a few steps:
A) A trigger on a given site “w” fires up
B) The trigger makes the recipe app do something
C) Something happens in sites “x”, “y” and “z”
Now websites w, x, y, and z, can be virtually anything. If the recipe web app supports it, then you can use it in the originating or receiving end of the recipe you create.
Recipe Websites for Process Automation
The free plan on these websites goes a long, long way. If of anything, the investment these kinds of integration require is time. If you have the time, they can help you up your game of process automation radically.
Setting up the recipes is a snap and I roughly estimate in the order of two or three minutes per automation.
To automate as much as possible of your automation scheme, and to do it fast, for them to take two minutes each you should know what are you going to automate beforehand.
A common use of these web apps is to use recipes to cross-post automatically to many social medial channels at once.
Now, I need to try this yet, but I think if you combine two or more recipe sites with a cross-posting app, like Buffer or Social Pilot, then you can probably post a social media update and have it replicate automatically to 5-10+ channels at once without having to do anything else other than the original post in the posting app.
Recipe Site 1: Using IFTTT for Process Automation
The one with which I had greater success, offers a long, long list of websites, social media sites, applications, and even IoT integrations.
The site’s design is super streamlined. It doesn’t have frills, yet it looks great. The takeaway for those new to it I’d say is IFTTT documentation center, very accessibly posted on the main menu, under the Developers' head.
Recipe Site 2: Using Zapier for Process Automation
Similar to IFTTT but not as streamlined in looks. Overall I struggled to find it as useful as IFTTT.
Native Integrations for Process Automation
Native integrations as in the features some websites have of creating a social media update on a third-party site after you do something (not just a post or social update). It’s understood as native because the site itself is providing the functionality that will facilitate a bigger process automation scheme. The sites that provide this functionality call the feature connection instead of integration, and the process synching, instead of automation, maybe more specific but the meaning is more or less the same.
To to do something you generally do with a social media posting app, or an automation recipe, if you can do it with the native integration it’s always better.
It’s better to do it with the native integration because you are reducing your automation overhead by not needing to create the automation by another conduit.
You also reduce the points of failure in the scheme and make it more robust, with fewer chances of failing.
Pros of Web Integrations
You can’t calculate the total number of benefits given by these web apps, as they provide just tools (or, how IFTTT calls them ingredients) that can be combined in virtually endless ways.
The most generic advantages, which aren’t specific by any means would be that:
They save a lot of time
This is the most obvious, easy to understand, and quite valuable feature of using these services for process automation. Suppose that you are reaching out to your audience/customer base/client base through multiple media channels at the same time.
Let’s say, you have a heavy social media presence and have followings in more than half a dozen different social media portals. Imagine what a drag it would be to have to publish the same update on each site manually.
Even if social media posters are the right applications to resort to for a case like that, the same effect can be achieved only by using recipes from recipe sites.
The combined use of social media posters and recipe sites will grant you, even more, reach, due to having more platforms to use and more resources to optimize together.
You can Automate Unthinkable Things
You should notice that on this page I have been using the social media portal example, but don’t think social media sites/services/applications are the only thing that recipe sites can integrate with.
They can even help you automate aspects of your digital home through IoT interfacing.
I remember that for a time I benefited from automation that automatically scrapped the ads I wanted from Craiglist, and then posted each one of them to a Trello stream, so instead of wading by Craiglist to find what I needed I just checked Trello and had all the ads automatically curated there.
Another very popular app that many people use to automate with IFTTT is Evernote. Evernote may not seem as a viable tool for process automation, but in fact, it helps a lot for that purpose.
Evernote is hard to beat as a personal content organizer, and if you have a lot of documents to manage, it’s a great solution that integrates your desktop, mobile, and tablet documents management experience.
When I checked how many apps IFTTT has for Evernote, it shocked me to find it they’re more than one hundred.
Community-powered Maturing Pace
I don’t know Zapier or others, but I know that on IFTTT you can search for recipes that you need that someone else already created. That’s what I mean by community-powered.
There is a lot of variables that can configure a recipe, and there are a lot of channels (sites/apps/services) to pick from.
Because of that, I think that the idea of making the original recipes shareable is great because it doesn’t force all the intellectual capital that users of the app unlocked to go to waste in a private profile, but allows others to benefit from the invention too.
Easy Automation Scaling
A way I found of scaling the power these services give is to make them not just the main mechanism of the automation, but another component in a bigger automation scheme.
An example of scaling your automation efforts would be to sequence recipe automation with both content marketing applications like Buffer and team management platforms like Trello.
You can create very complex systems when you use several or more similar services, like the case in the example of IFTTT, Buffer, and Trello.
Cons of Web App Integrations
There’s a catch with recipe sites and similar integrations, like cross-posting web apps. I can’t stress this enough, be careful or risk making a mess of your automation scheme.
By being careful I mean just plan, plan, plan, deploy, test, test, test, plan, iterate, deploy, and so on. You’ll notice that maybe two times out of three, the automation you wanted to achieve doesn’t fit the expectations.
Another con, but easy to overcome, is that it takes a little time at first to get the knack of it, after all, is practical as learning a new scripting language, but if you focus on knowing how it works, and you read the fine instructions this won’t hold you for long.
They Require Testing and Iteration
As I wrote above, is not something that is set-and-forget. You have to treat your recipe as a theory and not a finished product.
Then you have to test it inside out for at least five minutes and verify it makes what you want, the exact way you want it.
The final scheme previous to your first live media update proper should work flawlessly and all the parts of the automation have to be delivered and look exactly as you want.
Example of Site Integration: Pinterest and Twitter
Pins are a great invention. Thanks to Pinterest we don't need to make our hard drives or other storage a mess with images we would love to keep. This platform also grants us the ease of not having to infringe any law when we want to keep some image, chart, or infographic.
Pinterest gives a service that's the contemporary answer to the scrapbooks of the past.
You can pin any image from any website.
What's more important, pins have a social dimension to them. It's not only that the platform has social media site features. I say a social dimension because if you like a pin that you see you always can click it to see the source. Seeing the source of a pin will take you to a page where you can learn more about it.
On Pinterest, you organize your pins on boards. Boards can have sub-sections. On the sub-sections, you can decompose the main niche of your board into different sub-niches.
Pinterest has excellent organizational flexibility and they extended said the flexibility to the social aspect of the site. You not only can follow another pinner, but you can also not follow the pinner but can follow one, or more, of the pinner's boards.
You simply add a shortcode like the one below...
[ powr-pinterest-feed id="331dde56_1598129430" ]
...and you get here a nice slider with integration on the website of your Pinterest board. Pinterest is just an example, there is similar integration software for practically all social media and similar services.
The integration below showing all the tweets of my account is embedded on this page using a similar shortcode to the one above.
[module Custom Facebook Display]
© Martin Wensley, 2020-2021 — Copywriters and Digital Marketers: Integration and Process Automation